Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eversharp's Symphonies

The Eversharp Symphony is discussed on page 77 of The Catalogue, and it is usually found in three flavors:

From the top, these were the Symphony (with the thin gold “wedding band”), the Symphony Deluxe (with a wide gold band) and the Golden Symphony (with an all gold-filled cap).  These were introduced in 1948, after Eversharp’s catastrophic attempt to introduce a ballpoint pen nearly bankrupted the company.  While the pencils are very nice, they are essentially the same as the Skylines, the Coronets and the Dorics that came before them, dressed up a bit on the outside by industrial designer Raymond Loewy to make them look new and exciting.

Well, these are almost the ones designed by Raymond Loewy.  More on that in a minute.

I haven’t had much new to say about the Symphony since The Catalogue went to press.  When I finally did find a regular green Symphony to finish that set, I didn’t think it was newsworthy enough to warrant an article here because I knew they were out there and the only thing different about the pencil was the color of the lower barrel:

At the DC show, I ran across a blue Symphony Deluxe and decided to pick it up – I knew I had one, but I thought that the blue Deluxe at home wasn’t in the best condition, if memory served.  Unfortunately, memory did not serve, and I now had two perfectly good blue Symphony Deluxes (the one looks black in this picture, but it’s actually a darker shade of blue):

But when I looked at the two more closely, I noticed something:

The imprint on the clip is different, positioned lower on one example and with different lettering.  Also, while the buttons on Eversharp repeating pencils from 1937 on were interchangeable, it’s worth noting that while the example with the imprint higher up on the clip has 5 bands, the one with the lower imprint has only three.  Symphony pencils are much harder to come by than most other Eversharp repeaters, so it’s more likely that the button you see is the one that it came with.

Just for grins, I lined up all of my Deluxe models, and whaddaya know:

Three have the higher imprint, two of which have 5-band buttons (we’ll get to that burgundy one in a minute), and two have the lower imprint – one with three bands and the other with four.

As for the ribbed cap on that burgundy example, it would be easy to look at it and say that’s just the wrong button on that pencil, taken from one of the later press-clip Skylines.  But not so:

Since I haven’t seen this button on anything else, I can’t imagine what else it might go to.

As for the Golden Symphony, it wasn’t until the Chicago Show this May that I’d found any other examples:

All three of these (the black example, complete with its price sticker, definitely upgraded what I had) were in a large group of mint condition later Eversharp pencils that Don Lavin had in the show’s pen auction.  I won one of the two groups – these three, unfortunately, were in the other group, and since they were the only three in the bunch I was chasing, I didn’t win that group.  Fortunately for me, the winner of that other group, An Tran, was kind enough to part with just these three.

A close look at the top buttons reveals something else a little bit curious:

Of the three, one is noticeably more “pointy.”   And speaking of pointy, it’s time for me to get to the real point of the story.

Industrial designer Raymond Loewy was hired by Eversharp to design the Symphony, and the first examples introduced in 1948 employed Loewy’s original design, which incorporated a few distinctive features Eversharp quickly abandoned.  Instead of a flat clip, the original clips had two facets, a more pointed top, and they didn’t say “Made in USA.”    The entire cap also had an unusual feature: the back portion of the cap was bigger than the front, and that two-layer look, viewed from the side, gave it the collector’s nickname “slipper cap.”   At the time The Catalogue went to press, I still had no idea what an original Loewy-design Symphony pencil would look like (I’ve since found Jim Mamoulides’ excellent article over at penhero.com, which pictures a few examples).  Thanks to Sue Hershey, who had this among the things she brought to show me at the DC show, I now have one of my own to show you:

Note how much more graceful Loewy’s original 1948 design was than the more boxy post-1948 example:

The differences are even more pronounced when viewed from the side:

But the real surprise for me is at the other end of the 1948 Loewy pencil, at top, next to the later example:

See how the mechanism protrudes from the tip?

My Loewy Symphony pencil uses the Lovejoy patent mechanism!  Charles Lovejoy patented this design in 1944, and it was first used on the Moore cap-actuated Mastercrafts and Fingertip pencils, then later licensed to Eversharp, and finally to Dur-O-Lite (see “Dawn of the Fingertip – and Beyond” on April 23, 2012, at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/04/dawn-of-fingertip-and-beyond.html).


Terry Brack said...

I went and checked my Symphonies and found an early bandless deluxe set that had the same pointy top and Lovejoy mechanism that your pen had. The top button also has a sort of tulip pattern of raised metal running around the circumference. I can just make out the same pattern on the pencil you show. When I compared the corresponding pens to my two sets I see that the earlier pen has the same facedted clip as the pencil and a noticeably pointier top of to slipper cap.

Jon Veley said...

Hi Terry,

It sounds like you've got the same thing. Mine's obviously pretty rough, and I thought those lines on the cap were just scratches. I'm going to try to clean it up a bit more and see what else I can see.